News — Clean Break



two hands reaching out towards each other in a garden

Clean Break Joins The National Women’s Justice Coalition

We are excited to be welcomed as one of three new partner organisations of The National Women’s Justice Coalition (NWJC), alongside Kairos WWT and Trevi.

Established in September 2021, the NWJC is dedicated to achieving social justice for women by driving transformative changes within the criminal justice system (CJS) to reduce stigmatisation and improve outcomes for women and girls. The coalition’s membership group now includes 22 organisational partners, all expert in delivering trauma-informed support through women’s centres, women’s prisons and women-only premises. NWJC partners also include national women’s organisations that provide specialist services to women in custody and the community.

In November 2023 NWJC invited applications from UK based women’s organisations working with women in contact with the criminal justice system. This was with the intention of welcoming up to six new partners to increase the coalitions reach, increase representation and support the NWJC’s growth. The coalition plans to welcome a further three new partners before the end of June 2024, taking its membership group up to 25 specialist women’s organisations from across England and Wales.

Our Artistic Director Anna Herrmann said, “We are thrilled to announce Clean Break's membership of the National Women's Justice Coalition and join their community of organisations doing such vital work with and alongside women who have experience of the criminal justice system. We look forward to bringing Clean Break's unique perspective to the coalition, and to learn from their growing membership”.

Learn about Clean Break’s work in women’s centres

a photo of a woman raising her arm in the air defiantly and reading a script

Rewrite the Rules for International Women's Day: an invitation to businesses

Clean Break is offering businesses an insight into our practice this March

Did you know 47% of women identify workplace environment and culture as the primary obstacle to their leadership development? It is therefore unsurprising that 44% believe their organisations aren’t prioritising enough support for women to achieve career goals. [The Pipeline, Women Count, 2023

This is why throughout March, Clean Break will be offering a limited number of one-hour training sessions for businesses who want to support their female colleagues in reaching their full potential and cultivate a culture of empowerment in their organisation.

Celebrate International Women’s Day by challenging the expectations put upon women in the workplace, from a position of awareness and empowerment, whilst supporting a charity that transforms the lives of women who have experienced challenges such as criminalisation, homelessness and mental ill health. 

Book a session for your team, and our expert facilitators will come to your workplace to share Clean Break’s unique insights, developed over four decades of supporting women to achieve beyond their highest expectations, and raising awareness of the visible and invisible ways which gender dynamics impact women professionally. 

The expert facilitators who will lead your session are Anna Herrmann and Katherine Yates. Anna is Artistic Director of Clean Break and has been working in the field of theatre and social change for thirty years. Katharine is a facilitator and coach, who uses creativity to lead cultural transformation work with a range of organisations. 

Set aside one hour, maybe over a lunch break, and provide your female employees with a platform to get inspired, learn new skills, shift perspectives and give their work a new lease of life. 

Women will leave the session 

  • Feeling refreshed and energised   
  • With a shift in perspective   
  • Seeing themselves differently   
  • With a sense of collective female power   
  • With insight into how our bold and unique organisation works 

The session will also provide a taster of how we work with our Achieving Greater Impact full day training and coaching offer. 

The details  

  • £599 (plus VAT) 
  • Valid for the month of March 2024  
  • Facilitators to visit your organisation 
  • Space requirements: Cleared space / Chairs / no tables / flipchart stand if possible 
  • 8-50 participants per session 

To register your interest or find out more information, please contact our Producer Maya:

a photo of Clean Break Members in a theatre workshop

Looking back at 2023

A round-up of Clean Break's activity this year

We are incredibly proud of all Clean Break’s achievements this year, despite challenges we continue to face, both locally as a community and globally. Below, we have taken a moment to reflect on some of our activity in 2023 and extend our thanks to everyone who made it possible. 

At the start of the year we embarked on an eight-week national tour of educational and professional settings with Sonia Jalaly’s play Catch, designed to deepen understanding about the vital role of women’s centres. The play was performed by Clean Break Members*, Daisy Bartle, Amy-Jane Pearce and Ann Whitely as part of an actors’ traineeship and reached over 400 audience members.

In March, we received the brilliant news that Clean Break had achieved a silver Trauma Informed Quality Mark from the charity One Small Thing. We are so proud to receive this recognition from an organisation we admire deeply at Clean Break.  Following receipt of the quality mark, we began delivering public sessions of our Leading with Kindness training, developed for arts practitioners and facilitators to learn about working safely with trauma.

In April, we opened our co-production Dixon and Daughters by Deborah Bruce, on the National Theatre’s Dorfman stage, a first for Clean Break. Dixon and Daughters told a moving and challenging story which highlighted the complexities of cycles of violence and was performed to our largest audience in the history of the company. The National Theatre welcomed our Members behind the scenes, embraced our initiatives around audience care, and played a significant role in helping to amplify this important story. Dixon and Daughters is now available on NT at Home.

Across the year, Clean Break has taken part in multiple research projects, which continue to build greater understanding and new thinking about the transformative impact of theatre and the arts in criminal justice settings. These academic partnerships, including with Goldsmiths and Southbank Universities, are an important way for us to extend our learning and connect across sectors, and we place great value on the learning that arises from them. In May, key findings from Women/Theatre/Justice, an interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project focussing on Clean Break, were presented at a celebratory event at the Shard, where keynote speakers included our Patron Baroness Helena Kennedy KC, academics from the project, Professor Caoimhe McAvinchey and Dr Deborah Dean, and members of our team. Artworks inspired by the research, by Laura Dean, were also presented in an exhibition titled un:mute

In June, we hosted an ‘Anti-Racism Takeover day’ for the Clean Break community, led by our Creative Associates Titilola Dawudu and Rachel Valentine Smith. This event was an important milestone in our anti-racism journey, and with an emphasis on learning and joy, we explored what anti-racism and allyship means to us collectively. Together we participated in beautifully held workshops, and as always at Clean Break, shared a meal. 

In July, our Head of Participation and Deputy CEO Jacqueline Stewart received well deserved recognition from Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), receiving their Companionship Award for her outstanding contribution to participation work in the arts and criminal justice, which was presented by Paul McCartney. 

Over the summer we also welcomed five new trustees to our board, Catriona Guthrie, Lara Grace Ilori, Carien Meijer, Naima Sakande and Jess Southgate, who bring their expertise from the worlds of policy and campaigns, women’s rights advocacy and the arts, and all have a shared passion for Clean Break’s work. 

2023 also saw us complete the second phase of our Capital Investment project. Informed by our participation in the Mayor’s Business Climate Challenge and part-funded through Arts Council England, this phase focused on improving our environmental sustainability with the installation of LED lighting, replacement of boilers and refurbishment of other systems. The works were part of a filmed case study by Bloomberg Associates, sharing the improvements and impact. Our team, Members and hirers have already felt the difference in our building, and we look forward to beginning the next phase in 2024, which will improve our accessibility and enhance our trauma-informed environment. 

Clean Break’s first Playwrights Pathways programme took place this year, where six Members embarked on a nine-month playwrighting journey, in partnership with Royal Court Theatre. This programme was a huge success, with five writers, Fatima Dupres-Griffiths, Sorcha Fhionntain, Jill Power, Oriana White and Ann Whitely having extracts of their full-length plays performed in a celebratory showcase at the Royal Court Jerwood Downstairs in September. 

In October, we premiered our new film, Hope at an event at Kiln Theatre, hosted by Clean Break Patron Zawe Ashton. Hope is our first co-created film, by director Kirsty Housley and Member artists* Nicole Hall, Michelle Hamilton, Carina Murray, Natasha Jean Sparkes, and River. This lyrical documentary invites audiences to consider where hope really comes from, and what sustains hope during times of darkness. It is now available to watch online

2023 was also the second year of our participation in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Digital Accelerator Program, which saw us launching our new digital Knowledge Hub. We are thrilled to now have a new area of our website, rich with content and resources for audiences looking to engage with our work more deeply, including access to our film Hope. We are grateful to Bloomberg Philanthropies for their support throughout the program and look forward to creating more content and resources for our Hub in the new year. 

Our work in prisons and women’s centres continued this year, offering regular weekly workshops at Women in Prison and Advance women’s centres, and playwriting and theatre making workshops in HMPs Styal and Downview respectively. It is hugely important to us to have a presence in women’s prisons, as it binds us to our company roots, and we know from women we meet there of the hope, creativity and vital connectivity such workshops provide.   

We recently had the pleasure of announcing Lakesha Arie-Angelo as Clean Break’s new Associate Artistic Director, who will be joining us in March 2024. This new role was created to ensure shared decision making which reflects a broader plethora of voices, and we are so excited to welcome Lakesha to our senior management team next year. 

Earlier this year the Clean Break community received the heartbreaking news that Member artist Carrie Rock had passed away. We are grateful to the Royal Court for hosting a special event for Carrie in June, organised by her family and friends and supported by Clean Break. The event was an important moment for collective reflection and grief for those who knew Carrie, or who shared communities with her, as well as being a celebration of her life and incredible talent as an actor. As a community we have sadly ended the year with another loss – that of Member Katy Sage, who, like Carrie, has been known to the company for fifteen years. Katy performed in our 2020 small scale tour, Not Pretty Like the Rainbow. Our thoughts go out to her family and friends at this sad time.  

Thank you 

We have so many people to thank for being part of Clean Break’s journey this year, first and foremost are our Members for the creativity, resilience and warmth which everyone brings to our building each week. We would also like to thank our Member artists for their work on and off stage, and our Members Advisory Group for spearheading this important initiative to build engagement and involvement of Members in all aspects of running the organisation.   

Our team of staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly this year, we are grateful for everyone's commitment to Clean Break’s values and continue to be inspired by their dedication to our work. We are thankful to all who moved on from Clean Break in 2023, especially Lorraine Maher, who after ten years as our Participation Manager, and a year of sabbatical, has taken up a permanent role as Race and Justice Manager at CLINKS. We wish her all the best and thank her for many years of dedication and passion.

We would like to give special acknowledgement and thanks to our Creative Associates Titilola Dawudu and Rachel Valentine Smith whose fixed term contracts recently ended. During their year and a half in this role, Titilola and Rachel have immersed themselves across the company, and contributed significantly to our artistic output and to our organisational development. We wish them both all the best with their next steps and look forward to continuing working with Rachel in a freelance capacity.

We are excited to begin a new year with the team members who have recently joined us. We also look forward to welcoming Producer Dezh Zhelyazkova back in 2024, after going on maternity leave this year to have baby Florence Petra.

Thank you to our trustees for guiding us with passion and steadiness, and particularly to Tanya Tracey, who stepped down as Co-Chair this year after 9 years of service on our board, and whose expertise and dedication to Clean Break’s mission has been invaluable. We thank Alison Frater for continuing as Co-Chair with support from fellow trustee Alex Rowse, and we will be recruiting in the new year. 

We are indebted to our Patrons for being such passionate champions of Clean Break, and we look forward to continuing to work with them, and with award-winning actor Michelle Greenidge, who we had the pleasure of announcing as our newest Patron earlier this month. 

Clean Break is entering 2024 with a group of incredible writers on commission. We are excited to see what develops next year and beyond with babirye bukilwa, Emma Dennis-Edwards, Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Tash Marshall and Yasmin Joseph. We are also thrilled to be working in partnership with London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT) and Brixton House on an international project with five Clean Break Member artists to produce an original works as part of the festival next June. More details will be announced in March.  

None of this work would be possible without our dedicated community of supporters. We are so grateful for their generosity which allows Clean Break to continue its transformative work into 2024 and beyond. 

We wish all our partners and everyone who has passed through Clean Break’s doors, engaged with us online, or seen our work on stage a restful break as 2023 comes to a close, and look forward to welcoming you back in the new year.

From Anna, Erin, Jacqueline and the Clean Break team

*Clean Break Members are women who participate in our programme, who have lived experience of the criminal justice system or are at risk of entering it. 

Clean Break Member artists are women who have participated in our programme and now engage with Clean Break in a professional capacity as freelance artists. 

a photo of hands reaching out

Support over the festive period

Where to access support while Clean Break is closed

Clean Break services will be closed over the festive period, from 4pm on Thursday 21 December 2023 until 10am on Monday 15 January 2024.

We know that this can be a challenging time of year, so we've made a list of helplines which will remain open.

NHS Direct 111 - Lines open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Confidential advice if you have a medical issue that is not life threatening or an immediate emergency.

Samaritans 116 123 - Lines open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
You can get in touch about anything that’s troubling you. They’re here to listen.

Domestic Violence Helpline 0808 2000 247 - Lines open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Trained women helpline workers and volunteers will answer your call in confidence.

National Rape Crisis Helpline 0808 500 2222 - Lines are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Confidential support if you have survived any form of sexual violence, no matter how long ago.

Shelter Emergency Housing Helpline 0808 800 4444 - Lines are open Monday to Friday, 8am - 8pm and weekends and bank holidays, 9am - 5pm.
Housing experts will advise you if you are at risk of homelessness.

BEAT Eating Disorder Helpline 0808 801 0677 – From 18 December 2023, the Helpline will be available from 3pm to 8pm - 7 days a week.
Support and information about eating disorders no matter where you are in your journey.

Cruse Bereavement Support 0808 808 1677 – See their website for opening times.
A space to talk about your bereavement with trained helpline volunteers.

Find a local NHS urgent mental health helpline

If you are in serious danger call 999

For a longer list of support services, please visit this page.

If you would like some ideas for places to go and things to do over the festive period you might like to download this pack, made by volunteers at Clean Break.

We wish everyone a peaceful time over the next few weeks, and look forward to welcoming our Members back in January.

The cast of Hope sitting on a sofa, Natasha is writing in a notebook, the rest are looking over to see what she is writing

Clean Break launch Online Knowledge Hub

A new online resource developed with support from Bloomberg Philanthropies

Following months of hard work, we are thrilled to launch the Knowledge Hub with the digital premiere of our new film Hope. Developed with the support of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Digital Accelerator for Arts and Culture, this platform will be an ever-growing library of resources, information and learning experiences.

The Knowledge Hub will build on Clean Break’s decades worth of knowledge and resources in women’s theatre, activism, trauma-informed practice and criminal justice sectors. Presented in a wide range of media, there will also be opportunities to gain a deeper insight into past and up-coming productions, with interviews, behind-the-scenes films and more. 

The Knowledge Hub will engage Clean Break’s three main audiences of theatre lovers, practitioners and students, and women who have experience of the criminal justice system or at risk of entering it, including Clean Break Members. 

Users will be able to navigate the Hub through three core areas, which each correspond to a strand of Clean Break’s work: 

Theatre, highlighting Clean Break’s productions from past and present, including exclusive access to our new film Hope.

Community, platforming our Members’ voices and providing creative wellbeing resources. 

Learning, exploring our unique, trauma-informed way of working and how we make an impact 

Erin Gavaghan, Clean Break Executive Director and co-CEO: “Investment in strengthening our organisation’s technological infrastructure will support our strategic ambitions. The Hub will enable us to expand our role as a leading force in the sectors we work in - sharing our practice, sparking compassion and action in our audiences, and investing in and nurturing the voices of our Members who are at the heart of Clean Break. We now have the perfect home for all the incredible content we have and plan to develop to reveal the depth of our practice and deepen understanding of the experiences of women who are marginalised in society.” 

Visit the Knowledge Hub

Read the full press release


Black History Month: Saluting our Sisters

Hear what sisterhood means to Clean Break community members

This Black History Month has been all about 'saluting our sisters'. Celebrating Black women in our community is always important, and this month our Creative Associate Titilola Dawudu sat down with Clean Break-commissioned playwright Emma Dennis-Edwards and Black women-led theatre company Nubian Co-heARTs, to talk about their craft and the meaning of sisterhood.




Colour photographs of Catriona Guthrie, Lara Grace Ilori, Carien Meijer, Naima Sakande and Jess Southgate arranged horizontally on a teal background

Announcing changes to our Board of Trustees

Welcoming Catriona Guthrie, Lara Grace Ilori, Carien Meijer, Naima Sakande and Jess Southgate

At Clean Break’s Annual General Meeting this week, we were delighted to announce the election of five new trustees who will be joining our board, with our Co-Chair Tanya Tracey standing down.

“It’s hard to believe that my time as a trustee and a co-chair, has come to an end. Although I am having to step down because I served my term and more, I also see it as progression. It means I am making space for someone else to take up the role, bringing fresh ideas to the Board and a space for someone else with lived experience to take up the position.

I want to thank the Clean Break Board, staff and Members for seeing the leader in me. Nine years ago, the value of having people with lived experience of the criminal justice system in positions of leadership was not considered essential. So, I am forever grateful for the opportunity given by former Clean Break Chair Kim Evans and the other trustees who I met when I interviewed to join the Board. Along the way I’ve met other amazing women leaders who supported and inspired me on my journey. When Alison Frater joined as Chair and suggested a Co-Chair model to the board, I was humbled by their support and commitment. I want to thank Alison for being courageous and making space to share power. And to thank the Board for their patience and encouragement. I have always felt valued by them all.

I hope my journey can inspire others to follow, especially women from the Global Majority and with lived experience, because these positions are ours to take up.

Finally, to the new trustees, thank you for choosing Clean Break. I trust you will gain much, learn much and thoroughly enjoy being part of the Clean Break family, I certainly have.” - Clean Break Outgoing Co-Chair, Tanya Tracey

“We are grateful for the support and guidance that we gain from our voluntary board of trustees in leading Clean Break. Tanya has been an inspiration to us all, and we are sad to come to the end of her term of service but will ensure that the legacy of her leadership is strong.

We are delighted to welcome new trustees to the Board who will each bring new perspectives and skills to guide us through the next period. We celebrate new voices adding richness to our discussions and decision-making.” - Clean Break Executive Director, Erin Gavaghan

Catriona Guthrie is a specialist in revenue generation for arts venues. She is currently Commercial Director for Battersea Arts Centre and has previously worked at the Lyric Hammersmith, Chichester Festival Theatre and numerous West End venues. Alongside her pursuit of sustainable business models, Catriona has a particular interest in transformative theatre and spent a two-year career break with charity Theatre for a Change working with women and girls in Ghana and Malawi. She was also on the team that helped set up The Mono Box, a community and toolkit for emerging artists, and sat on its advisory board throughout its 10-year lifespan.

Carien Meijer has extensive experience of working in various leadership and producing roles with organisations across the arts, local government and voluntary sector. Between 2006 and 2022, Carien was the Chief Executive of Drake Music. She is currently a freelance consultant and undertaking a MRes in Social Research & Psychosocial Studies at Birkbeck University.

Lara Grace Ilori studied BA (Hons) Acting at RADA (2020) and will complete an MSc in Social and Cultural Anthropology at UCL in 2023, researching decolonisation and cultural identity in Oyotunji African Village in South Carolina. Lara is a storyteller, wanting to share human experiences through various creative mediums. She is currently participating in the Soho Theatre Writers Lab, co-produces events under the title 'A Night With Lara and Caleb' with fellow actor and RADA graduate Caleb Obediah, and will be seen in new Channel 4 series Big Mood airing in 2023/2024. Lara first worked with Clean Break playing Munch in Typical Girls (2021), and hopes to contribute to the welcoming, championing environment she was met with when cast in her first professional stage job by the organisation.

Naima Sakande is currently working as a freelance charity consultant, specialising in women's rights advocacy. Before this, Naima was Deputy Director of the legal charity APPEAL, where she managed their Women’s Justice Initiative, specialising in case investigation for criminal appeals on behalf of women with histories of domestic abuse and mental illness. She has managed programmes for young women affected by gangs in London at the youth charity, Leap Confronting Conflict, as well as working on pre-trial criminal cases as an Investigator for The Bronx Defenders, an internationally renowned public defender office in New York City. She was previously Vice-Chair of Women in Prison and was a 2019 Griffins Society Fellow, conducting research on the barriers to appeal for women with the Institute of Criminology at Cambridge University. Naima has a B.A. in International Development from Yale University.

Jess Southgate began her career in the theatre, having studied Drama at Bristol University and then working as a costumier. Her passion for women’s justice was ignited by a role at Clean Break, from which she went on to work in policy, research and campaigns in the voluntary sector for fifteen years. She has held roles with organisations including the Howard League, Young Women’s Trust, Plan International UK and NACRO with a focus on campaigning for transformative systemic change for women and girls. Jess is currently Deputy CEO at Agenda Alliance, where she leads work to convene, strengthen and empower organisations to influence gender and trauma-responsive policy and practice for women and girls with multiple unmet needs. She has a Masters in Gender from the LSE, is a Griffins Society Fellow, a Trustee of Clinks (having previously been a trustee for Women’s Breakout) and volunteers with Opening Doors London.

A group of women perform site-specific dance piece A Wondering Willow Dreams in the black-box studio of Clean Break's building.

Celebrating the close of our 2022/23 Members Programme

Clean Break and The Place collaborate on a site-specific dance performance

Our Members Programme has finished for the summer, and we have been celebrating everyone’s hard work and creativity this year with a series of creative sharings at Clean Break.

These culminated last week with a special performance by Members of a site-specific dance performance, produced in partnership with The Place.

Although the core Members programme came to a close in early July, 11 women remained enrolled to participate in an additional Summer creative movement project, led by Sara Dos Santos, a London-based choreographer, movement director and cultural producer.

The group collaborated to produce A Wondering Willow Dreams, a site-specific immersive performance in which both dancers and audience members travelled from the Clean Break courtyard, into our welcome area, before ending in our black box space. The performance was accompanied with filmed projections, highlighting the gentle and detailed movements in sections of the piece. These were created by Nur Hannah Wan, with footage shot during the rehearsal process.

Sara Dos Santos says: “A Wondering Willow Dreams explores the beauty and wonderstruck rhythms of nature and drew inspiration from trees and nature to inform our movement and creative process. Our four-day explorative process commenced with play, individual movement inquiry and ended with a joy-filled collective contribution towards the creation of the final piece.

Thank you to The Place and Clean Break for this impactful opportunity to not only empower such incredibly talented individuals but also learn from a range of creatives at different stages of their careers.”

Maria Ryan, Creative Learning Producer for The Place, comments: “The Place and Clean Break have been working together for over 12 years and this relationship has developed from delivering short courses of dance classes at Clean Break to creative movement projects. This year’s project was an ambitious one and formed part of Clean Break’s summer intensive.

In just four days, the group created a performance installation piece that was site specific, with Sara Dos Santos, Darinka Bojarquez (a student from London Contemporary Dance School) and Clean Break Volunteer, Celeste Cahn.

The group performed with such clarity and confidence, which I could see had been gently nurtured throughout the rehearsals, and I was so proud of the maturity and professionalism of the performers and the movement they created. It felt like a very special development of the work we, The Place and Clean Break, have been building together over the years. I look forward to next year’s project!”

Their performance was followed by a collective lunch for Members, staff, volunteers and Trustees, where we were able to applaud all the women who participated in our Health & Wellbeing, Theatre Making, Writing and Creative Space programmes this season. Members took some time and space to acknowledge their achievements, and their experiences and development over the course of the year.

We also took time to acknowledge the commitments Members had made to volunteering throughout the year and thank those who generously volunteer their time to us.

This was an especially meaningful moment for the Clean Break community to come together, as it marked the close of the first year of in-person activity after the disruption of the pandemic.

Jacqueline Stewart, Clean Break’s Head of Participation and Deputy CEO, said: “Our women were pleased to have the first full year of the Members programme back in our amazing building. We ended with a huge joyful event to celebrate their achievements, attended by a mixture of women from our community. These workshops and the trauma-informed support, build confidence, self -esteem, skills, creativity and sisterhood. Congratulations everyone!”

Our building is now closed for redevelopment works until September, and whilst our Members’ programme may be over until then, our volunteers have put together a list of things to do and support resources for across the coming months. Clean Break Members can download it on this page of our website.

We can’t wait to welcome everyone back in the autumn for the start of the new season.

a production photo from more than we can bear at the Almeida theatre, the cast are taking their bows on stage

Looking back at 2022

Thank you to everyone who has been part of Clean Break’s journey this year.

2022 has been a year full of challenges for everyone, not just us at Clean Break. However, we are so grateful to be part of a community of women who care deeply for one another, and we are incredibly proud of all our achievements this year.

Our Members programme returned to our building full time, with the highlight being our first ever Members Festival: Limitless. Designed and co-produced by Members, the festival centred around the themes of Empowerment, Freedom and Kindness and featured sharings from our Members Programme, commissioned pieces and workshops led by our Members as well as online content.

A photo of Clean Break Members working on a collage together
Limitless Festival, mural workshop // Tracey Anderson

We saw more Members on stage this year, with our first production More Than We Can Bear: The Women’s Centre Workers’ Play, written by Eno Mfon. The play was part of the Keyworkers Cycle at the Almeida Theatre, a programme of new works celebrating the stories of those who kept our daily lives going during the pandemic.

Sonya Hale’s legacy continued and flourished with Blis-ta winning the Tinniswood Award at the BBC Audio Drama Awards. This was a hugely significant, moving and emotional moment for the whole Clean Break community, and testament to how compelling and valuable Sonya’s words continue to be.

At last we were able to engage once again with women in prison, with the Inspiring Futures project taking place in HMP Downview. A group of women in the prison collaborated to create a beautiful play with playwright Yasmin Joseph called A Proposal for Resisting Darkness, directed by Anna Herrmann, which some of the Clean Break team were lucky enough to go and see in the prison chapel.

the artwork for 'a proposal for resisting darkness' it is an issustrating with purple and grey tones. the title is in a storm cloud in the middle and a group of women wearing different colour tshirts are above shooting lightning out of their hands.
The artwork for A Proposal for Resisting Darkness // Carys Wright

Our major production this year was Favour at the Bush Theatre, written by Ambreen Razia and directed by Róisín McBrinn and Sophie Dillion Moniram. Favour was part of the Bush’s 50th anniversary season, and told the story of a working-class Muslim family navigating life as one of them returns home from prison. A highlight of the production was a well-deserved nomination in the Stage Debut Awards for Designer Liz Whitbread. Liz is a Clean Break Member Artist who has been on a journey with us for the past ten years, discovering her talent and love for design.

With Favour, we saw Róisín’s last production as Joint Artistic Director of Clean Break, as she left the company over the summer. We are so grateful to have had eight wonderful years with Róisín, and continue to stay in touch as she settles into her new role as Artistic Director at the Gate Theatre, Dublin – not least because she is directing our co-production Dixon and Daughters with the National Theatre next year, which we announced in November.

avita jay and ashna rabheru in favour at the bush theatre
Favour at the Bush Theatre // Suzi Corker

Following Róisín’s departure, an interim leadership structure was put in place, including long-standing team member and Head of Participation Jacqueline Stewart stepping into the role of Interim Deputy CEO. The interim model has served us well whilst the company has taken this time to review, reflect and consider our aspirations for leadership moving forward.

Our leadership team saw another milestone, as Artistic Director Anna Herrmann celebrated 20 years with the company, fittingly coinciding with International Women’s Day. Anna’s continued commitment to transformative theatre was recognised by the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama with an honorary fellowship in December this year, a moment of pride and celebration for all of Clean Break.

Clean Break’s artistic team expanded as we welcomed two Creative Associates this year, Titilola Dawudu and Rachel Valentine Smith. They both have enriched our company in so many ways, including through the creation of a new Playwrights Pathway programme with the Royal Court theatre, which is an in-depth offer for six Members who want to take their playwrighting further.

The final piece of our 40 Year Anniversary Heritage project came together in May, with the launch of our Digital Archive, meaning the extraordinary gems we unearthed in 2019 can now be explored online from anywhere in the world.

Our anti-racism work continued in 2022 with us working with darvaja, a collective of women practitioners working to address systemic and structural inequality. This year we shared our anti-racism action plan with the Clean Break community, which we co-created over 18 months of work. We would like to once again thank darvaja for challenging us and holding this work with such care, and to the whole Clean Break community for your engagement and commitment on this journey.

Towards the end of this year, we received the fantastic news that our Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation application had been successful, meaning we will continue to receive their support until 2026. We are so grateful to have this investment and to know that the transformative work Clean Break does is recognised and valued. We would like to extend enormous thanks and appreciation to our Development team, for working tirelessly to ensure we can continue changing lives through theatre.

As well as our NPO funding, earlier this year we confirmed a successful application for Capital Project funding from Arts Council England, which will enable us to improve our building and infrastructure, with a focus on ensuring we maintain a safe, trauma informed space with improved environmental sustainability.

As well as developing our physical space, we are proud to be participating in Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Digital Accelerator for Arts and Culture, which supports arts organisations through strategic improvements to technology infrastructure.

Clean Break is the work of an extraordinary group of people and we would like to thank everyone who has been part of our company or engaged with us over the past year.

This includes our amazing partners, our Patrons, our Trustees, our community of supporters: the Arts Council England, and all the Trusts, Foundations, statutory partners, corporate partners and individual donors who have made our work possible.

A special thank you to our team of staff and volunteers for their continued commitment and perseverance; to our board for guiding us once again with such passion and respect for our company; to our artists for helping realise our shared vision with such imagination; and to Clean Break’s Members for bringing our building to life every week with your talents, laughter and friendship. We are endlessly inspired by you all, your creativity, care, and commitment to building a world where women reach their full potential, free from criminalisation.

We are excited to embark on this new year with you all, and until then we hope you all have a restful break and celebrate yourselves.

From Anna and Erin and the Clean Break team.

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Lead image: More Than We Can Bear at the Almeida Theatre // Ali Wright

a photo of Member Nicole smiling. The Big Give logo is in white and the words Thank You are in teal

A BIG Thank You!

We have reached our Big Give target of £30,000

Our Big Give Christmas Challenge has been a huge success thanks to all of our amazing supporters.


Because of your support, we will continue to create new fulfilling pathways for women caught up in or at risk of entering the criminal justice system - supporting them to explore their creativity, build confidence and create community.

Our unique programme of support is needed now more than ever with the cost-of-living crises and mental health emergency of the last few years, and your donations have gone twice as far to ensure we can keep delivering our life-changing work.

This week our Members have generously shared their stories about how Clean Break has supported them on their journeys.

We shared an interview with Member Artist Lucy Edkins, which was published in the latest issue of Women In Prison’s magazine.

Sorcha spoke about discovering her talent and passion for writing through Clean Break, and joining our Playwrights Pathway programme.

Designer and Clean Break Member Artist Liz Whitbread wrote a blog about her ten year journey with Clean Break.

Donna shared how finding acting through Clean Break has helped her build confidence.

We re-shared an interview with Member Artist and actor Jennifer Joseph, and caught up on what she's been doing since we spoke with her in 2021.

Nicole told us how Clean Break has helped reignite her love for acting, and opened doors to new opportunities.

Aseema, Pam and Sue shared how Clean Break has supported their creativity, confidence and wellbeing in our main campaign video.

Thank you so much to all our Big Give supporters, our incredible Members, to everyone who shared the campaign, and to the Big Give, our Champion Funder, the Women and Girls Match Fund and our Pledge Donors.

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a photo of Sorcha at Clean Break with the big give logo in the corner

Big Give Christmas Challenge 2022

Support Our Members’ Futures

We’re launching our 2022 Big Give Christmas Challenge campaign!

Clean Break is a safe space for women caught up in the criminal justice system or at risk of entering it: to come together, be creative and imagine new futures.

Our Members face intersecting and marginalising challenges including racism, poverty, trauma, domestic violence and alcohol and drug use issues. These challenges mean our Members are among the most affected by the biting cost of the living crises and the mental health emergency of the last few years.

This widening disadvantage gap means that our specialist support is needed more than ever. We are working hard to keep the doors open, the heating on and to offer hot meals and food vouchers, whilst providing creative opportunities for our Members to build positive and fulfilling futures.

Anna says: “We know that harnessing creativity provides solutions to the needs of women facing deep disadvantage, and that our work is successful at unlocking women’s potential, raising aspirations and building hope. Over 70% of Clean Break’s Members progress into education, employment and volunteering and we are proud that the transferable skills they have gained at Clean Break have been vital in their career progression and therefore in their contributions to the cultural landscape.”

Our Big Give Challenge is raising money for a programme of work building a bridge for our Members to progress beyond Clean Break. Through these pathways our Members will develop further, learn new skills, build confidence and resilience, and forge new careers and opportunities.

As always, these exciting creative opportunities will be accompanied by our holistic, specialist support offer which provides a safety net for women in vulnerable circumstances.

The campaign is match-funded, which means that every donation made during the next week will be doubled. That means one donation, twice the impact.

We know times are hard – not just for us, but for everyone. No donation is too small to have an impact, and every £1 will help to make this work possible. If you can’t donate right now there are other ways to support, like sharing our campaign on social media and signing up to our mailing list.

Donate today to support our Members’ futures

Hear from our Members about the importance of Clean Break’s work:

With many thanks to the Big Give, our Champion Funder, the Women and Girls Match Fund and our Pledge Donors.

A photo from More Than We Can Bear, a woman is standing on stage looking towards the ceiling.

Continuing our work in women's centres

As part of the London Women’s Services Alliance, we have been successful in a bid to continue to deliver services to women under probation supervision, and those at risk of contact with the criminal justice system in London. We are proud to be one of the sister organisations who will be delivering this work, alongside Women in Prison, Pecan, Housing for Women, Hibiscus, Advance, Working Chance and Together.

The work is co-commissioned by MoJ, MOPAC, NHS England and Lambeth Council and will mean our trauma informed, gender-specific services in women’s centres can continue until March 2025.

Clean Break’s role in the partnership is to deliver creative interventions and opportunities for women, including workshops in storytelling, singing, drama, performance poetry and creative writing, which complement the range of activities and support on offer at the centres.

“The work that women’s centres do is really really valuable, I have been so lucky to work in them over the years. I’ve met such a wonderful array of women and the workers who are really committed to supporting the women and getting them into a better place.” JB Rose, Creative Group Work Practitioner

“Made me feel a sense of achievement. [it was a] friendly, open, non-judgemental environment.” - Creative group participant

Sonya Ruparel, Chief Executive of Women in Prison says “We are thrilled to continue to work with our fantastic partners to meet the specific needs of women in South and Southeast London who are at risk of contact with the criminal justice system or are under probation supervision. Women who have been criminalised face serious barriers to thriving and we are proud to be able to work alongside them. This funding will enable us to continue to provide our trauma informed, gender specific services and reach more women across South and Southeast London.”

Watch this video to find out more about our work in women’s centres, including how we worked during lockdown.

Image credit: Ali Wright. From More Than We Can Bear: The women's centre play

a photo of the stairwell at Clean break

Clean Break receives funding from Arts Council England’s Capital Investment Programme

We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded funding from Arts Council England to refurbish and develop our home in Kentish Town.

Over the next three years, we’ll make some big changes: we’re going to make our building more accessible, including working with our Members to embed trauma-informed design; we’ll upgrade our on-site tech; and we’ll work to improve the environmental sustainability of our building.

This has all been made possible by a grant of £232,500 from Arts Council England’s Capital Investment Programme. As part of these 2021-22 and 2022-23 grants, over £22.7 million has been awarded to 66 cultural organisations across the country, including Clean Break. The Capital Investment Programme aims to help cultural organisations across the country transform their buildings and equipment so they can operate safely post-pandemic, improve access, seize technological opportunities, and reduce environmental impact. From Barrow-in-Furness to The Isles of Scilly, the organisations receiving funding share a vision to build a fit for the future cultural sector, which all members of their communities can access.

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said “World class creativity and culture needs a resilient and sustainable infrastructure to allow it to flourish. With these investments in the buildings, equipment, and digital systems of cultural organisations across England, we are helping to secure the future of that infrastructure, and making sure that people from every part of the country can continue enjoying all the benefits it delivers for years to come.”

Clean Break’s Leadership Team, Anna Herrmann, Erin Gavaghan, and Róisin McBrinn said “Our home is a vital safe and creative space for the women we work with, and this investment is significant as we mark 25 years in Kentish Town. We are excited to transform it for the future, fore-fronting access, care and environmental sustainability and working with our community to realise these ambitions. Inclusion and justice are at the heart of our work and improving our building in this way will support us to achieve the positive change we envision.”

A huge thank you to Arts Council England on behalf of everyone at Clean Break, we can’t wait to start this journey.

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headshot of Roisin McBrinn

Róisín McBrinn stepping down as Joint Artistic Director

After eight years with Clean Break, Róisín McBrinn is leaving her role as our Joint Artistic Director and Chief Executive to join The Gate Theatre in Dublin as their new Artistic Director.

For the past eight years Róisín has been an integral part of Clean Break, joining us in 2014 as Head of Artistic Programme, and becoming Joint Artistic Director alongside Anna Herrmann and Erin Gavaghan as Executive Director, four years later. As part of the leadership team, Róisín has developed our company as a major force in producing new writing, commissioned and directed ground-breaking plays including Typical Girls by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and Blis-ta by Sonya Hale, and brought our Members into the heart of Clean Break’s work.

Róisín McBrinn in rehearsals for Typical Girls, 2021
Róisín McBrinn in rehearsals for Typical Girls, 2021 / Lucy Smith-Jones

Róisín McBrinn and Ambreen Razia recording Blis-ta at the National Theatre, 2020
Róisín McBrinn and Ambreen Razia recording Blis-ta at the National Theatre, 2020

We are very excited to see what this next chapter in Róisín’s artistic career will bring, as she joins The Gate Theatre, a venue with such a significant role in the Irish cultural landscape.

While Róisín’s departure will be a huge loss to Clean Break, we are energised by the pipeline of work which has been generated by Róisín and Anna Herrmann as Joint Artistic Directors. The next 18 months of activity and partnerships at Clean Break are a testament to the legacy of Róisín’s time here, which we will continue to build on after she steps into her new position in August.

Róisín McBrinn at Keir Starmer visit to Clean Break office, 2020
Róisín McBrinn at Keir Starmer visit to Clean Break office, 2020 / Olivia Chancellor

Róisín McBrinn: 'It's been a huge honour to jointly lead Clean Break for the past four years and to have worked here for eight. Huge thanks to our brilliant Board, the amazing Anna Herrmann and Erin Gavaghan whom I have led alongside, our wonderful staff team, all the artists and partners we collaborate with and of course, our Members. Working at Clean Break has taught me an immeasurable amount and it has been the most fruitful, formative and joyful time of my career. I will miss the whole community, but I am so excited to pass the baton on and see this vital, brilliant company morph and grow in someone else's hands.'

Alison Frater and Tanya Tracey, Co-chairs of Clean Break Board: ‘Róisín has been a solid creative foundation for Clean Break and a dynamic powerhouse for change. Working with our Members, she seized every opportunity to enable artistic expression, to inspire new writing and to support freelance artists. She jointly delivered the company's aspiration to grow its theatre-making roots, producing unique and excellent work. She worked tirelessly as part of the leadership team over the pandemic years finding innovative ways to ensure the voices of women affected by the criminal justice system were heard. There was also an astonishing number of debates, workshops, training events and talks online reaching out to audiences, finding expression for those most affected by the pandemic and driving high profile advocacy for ending the incarceration of women, tackling racism, inequality and injustice. She leaves the company with creative work for main stages in the pipeline and a legacy of achievement that will be difficult to replace. We thank her with all our heart and wish her well for the future.’

Erin Gavaghan and Anna Herrmann: ‘Jointly leading Clean Break with Róisín for the last four years, we have faced some extraordinary times together, and we are proud of the bold, ambitious and courageous company we are today. We will hugely miss Róisín’s vision, friendship, passion and unswerving commitment to justice and to joy. We wish her every success as she continues her career and look forward to seeing her continue to make beautiful theatre. Her contributions to our future plans will be a legacy that we are excited to build upon as we move ahead.’

Róisín McBrinn at Thick as Thieves read-through with company, 2018
Róisín McBrinn at Thick as Thieves read-through with company, 2018 / Theatr Clwyd

As we prepare for Favour, our summer 2022 production with Bush Theatre, we are pleased to confirm that the play will still be directed by Róisín, with co-direction from Sophie Dillon-Moniram.

Róisín will also be directing our spring 2023 production Dixon and Daughters, at the National Theatre. Tickets on sale now.

a photo of Rachel Valentine Smith and Titilola Dawudu

Welcoming Creative Associates Titilola Dawudu and Rachel Valentine Smith

“We are absolutely thrilled to be joined by Rachel and Titilola as our two new Creative Associates, who will be working with us for the next 18 months. They both bring rich experience of theatre - through directing and dramaturgy - and of prioritising care and inclusive practices which will hugely serve our ambitions at Clean Break. Both artists will be working closely with our Members to extend the pathways available to them into the industry and supporting our commissioned artists. They will also work across our team, to diversify and enrich our approaches and artistic output.” Anna Herrmann and Róisín McBrinn, Joint Artistic Directors.

Titilola’s work spans across arts and cultural, charity and youth sectors, where she enables Black people, specifically Black women, and people from the global majority to thrive and show up as themselves. Titilola is part of Black Womxn in Theatre, the team behind the iconic #WeAreVisible photoshoot of over 250 Black women and nonbinary people in theatre, at the Globe in 2019. During the pandemic, Black Womxn in Theatre also partnered with Eclipse and Bush Theatres in creating a four-week redundancy recovery care programme.

With Tamasha Theatre Company, Titilola co-created and edited Hear Me Now Audition Monologues for Actors of Colour, published by Oberon Books. The second volume of Hear Me Now is currently in development and will be published this summer.

“I’m excited to continue to champion the artistry, voices, identities of people who are often left out but have so much to bring to the table. Here, women are encouraged and supported to give themselves permission to thrive, exist loudly and contribute to theatre. I’m looking forward to being a part of their journey.” Titilola Dawudu.

a headshot of Titilola Dawudu

Titilola Dawudu in Clean Break's garden / Tracey Anderson

Rachel is a director, artist and facilitator working across the UK and internationally. Her work includes reimaginings of the classics, regular collaborations with emerging and established writers from the UK, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Lebanon, and cross discipline events and installations. Rachel was co-artistic director of The Faction ensemble for six years and directed work commissioned by New Diorama Theatre, Stephen Joseph Theatre, The Lowry and the British Council.

Rachel’s debut short films, My Last Dutchess and Medea / Worn, were commissioned by The Lowry in 2021 and have been included in ten festival selections across the globe. Rachel has worked extensively with collaborators in Lebanon and produced events in support of English PEN, The Black Curriculum and the Theater Relief Group Lebanon.

“As a company that it is led by the change it wants to see, through kindness, creativity and passion I am so honoured to be joining the Clean Break team, working alongside Titilola Dawudu. The opportunity to bring my experience of co-creation, collaboration and facilitation, and a practice of care is deeply exciting. The legacy of change that Clean Break holds demonstrates the power that theatre can have, most importantly for the women we champion. I look forward to supporting this work in all that we do.” Rachel Valentine Smith.

a headshot of Rachel Valentine Smith

Rachel Valentine Smith in Clean Break's garden / Tracey Anderson

Alongside the addition of Titilola and Rachel, existing Clean Break team members Maya Ellis and Dezh Zhelyazkova have stepped up into Producer roles, giving us a full creative team. Dezh, previously Assistant Producer, was promoted in December, and following an externally advertised recruitment process earlier this year, Maya has moved from her role as Executive and Producing Assistant to become our second Producer.

We are so pleased to have a complete creative team made up of talented women, who each bring their unique perspectives to Clean Break. This all comes at an exciting time, as we prepare for our summer production, Favour at Bush Theatre.

Photo credit: Tracey Anderson

a photo of two clean break members smiling at the camera, there is a purple filter on the photo. text over the top reads '£50000, thank you' the big give logo is in the top right corner

Thank You For Giving Hope

THANK YOU to everyone who donated, shared and supported our Women and Girls Match Fund campaign.

We have raised an incredible £55,157 (£56,733 with Gift Aid) towards the development of HOPE, a new digital project co-created by Clean Break Members and leading women artists.

With an awareness that we all need hope, perhaps now more than ever, we asked our community to submit their response to ‘what does hope means to you'. We are pleased to share with you two beautiful poems from Clean Break Members, Ann and Oriana and our 'wall of hope', created from responses we recieved on social media.

We are grateful to be able to share these poems and messages with you, and hope they bring you the same joy and empowerment they have brought to us.

to me, hope is the light that shines around you. Hope is the glory of healing strength. Hope is a ball of fire in the pit of your stomach that drives you forward to be the best version of you.  Hope is the start of each new day. Hope is when you realise you’re amazing just the way you are. Hope is having a safe space to find your voice, express yourself and to create a new narrative for your future. Hope is the trust that was lost in the chaos that Clean Break enables me to feel again.  Hope is empowering  Hope is power. By Oriana

our wall of hope, with messages from our community about what hope means to them.

As we develop this project, ‘hope’ and its unifying power, will continue to be part of the conversation at Clean Break. There is still time to share your words of hope, you can email us at

Thank you once again for following this journey, for sharing your hopes and for giving hope to women who face deep disadvantage.

a photo from our production of Through This Mist. In the Clean Break garden, audience members are standing around and talking, wearing masks, standing around a circle of white make shift trees

Season's Greetings: 2021 Round-up

Looking back at what we've achieved this year, and thank you to everyone who has been part of our journey.

It has been an eventful year here at Clean Break. Whilst the challenge of living through the pandemic is still very much with us, and 2021 has not been the period of recovery we had hoped for, we are incredibly proud of our achievements this year, and the continued resilience and perseverance of our team. Our commitment to care and safer spaces has sharpened this year, not just in how we work with Members and artists, but how we move forward as an organisation with the values of compassion and collaboration leading our decisions and actions at every turn.

2021 has seen a fresh demand for our programme as we have welcomed new Clean Break Members both online and onsite into our building, enabling artistic growth alongside providing holistic support. We have pursued our commitment to employing artists from within our Membership as actors, theatre makers and panellists, and were delighted this year to celebrate an increasing number of Members breaking into the wider industry, proudly making their mark in films and on national stages.

a photo of three memebers standing in a row, they are smiling and laughing

Photo credit: Tracey Anderson

2021 was also about making space for joy. We celebrated a return to live performance with our outdoor co-created works Through This Mist, performed in the summer months in the Clean Break garden to our friends and local community. The culmination of our heritage project saw us showcase our rich 40 year history at Swiss Cottage Gallery, with our beautifully curated exhibition and programme of live and digital events. And we were thrilled to enter the autumn period with our electric production of Typical Girls at the Crucible in Sheffield. A punk-fuelled play by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, Typical Girls was created with the unique alchemy of leading women artists and our Member artists. Not forgetting the genius of The Slits!

While we cherished being back together in person, we continued our digital adventures and enjoyed reaching audiences in new ways. We released Sonya Hale’s visceral play Blis-ta as an audio drama; produced our Voices from Prison e-book; and released Chloë Moss’s Sweatbox as a short film. Typical Girls also became part of our digital programme, during the run we held a live stream performance which reached people across the UK. Bringing live performances into prisons has still not been possible for us since the start of the pandemic, but we were able to share Typical Girls in prison digitally, thanks to WayOut TV. Although this in no way replicates the vital connection of working directly inside prisons, it felt positive to have shared the joy and rebellion of Typical Girls with women inside.

A photo of the cast of Typical Girls on stage performing as a band

Typical Girls at Sheffield Theatres // Photo credit: Helen Murray

This year we embarked on a journey with anti-racism consultants darvaja, working towards developing anti-racist practices across Clean Break. We have interrogated our practice, acknowledging where racism shows up in our structures and co-creating across the organisation - envisioning what anti-racism looks like at Clean Break. We would like to thank darvaja for their guidance, supporting us in our commitment to change, for their tough questions and generosity. We would also like to thank the Clean Break team, trustees, artists and Members for bringing themselves to this work fully, and for working through challenges with heart.

Clean Break is a collective endeavour, we would like to thank everyone who has been part of Clean Break, engaged with our work or stepped through our doors (in person or virtually) over the past year.

This includes our wonderful partners, who have collaborated with us to realise so many of the year’s achievements.

Our Patrons for championing the company wherever they are. We were deeply sad to have lost Barbara Hosking this year, who was a trailblazer in every way and our heartfelt sympathies go to her partner Margaret Hyde and family and friends.

Our community of supporters, who have continued to ensure our future. Thank you to Arts Council England & DCMS for the transformative support of the Culture Recovery Fund; and to all the Trusts, Foundations, statutory partners, corporate partners & individual donors who have supported us and made our work possible.

And finally, a heartfelt special thank you to all the individuals who make up our team, trustees, artists, volunteers, and our Members who commit themselves to a shared vision of a world where women reach their full potential, free from criminalisation. The pursuit of which continues to propel us with energy and determination.

Looking forward, we’re excited for what 2022 has in store! Watch this space for a new co-production, digital projects, work in prisons, and more opportunities for collaboration.

Wishing everyone some joy, rest and rejuvenation as the year ends.

Anna, Erin and Róisín and the Clean Break team

A photo of clean break Members smiling with a pink filter over the top, white text reads: £30000 Thank you! With the big give logo at the top

A BIG Thank You from our Members

THANK YOU to everyone who donated, shared and supported our Big Give campaign.

 Clean Break’s Big Give Christmas Challenge 2021 has been a great success, all thanks to the generosity of our amazing family of supporters – old and new.

In just one week, we raised an incredible £30,506 to help us to reach and support women with lived experience of the criminal justice system, or those at risk of entering it, on their journey from surviving to thriving.

Throughout the campaign, we introduced you to the women at the heart of Clean Break, our Members. Before we say goodbye to the Big Give Christmas Challenge 2021, we are pleased to share a final word of thanks from Donna, Ellen, Inka, Jasmine, Oriana, Tina.

To these amazing women, we would like to say a very special thank you. Thank you for lending your voices to this campaign and for generously sharing what Clean Break means to you.

“Your support will change, if not one, every woman who walks through this door, it will change their life” Oriana

Thank you once again for following this journey and for standing by Clean Break so vulnerable women can experience transformation through theatre, whilst feeling supported to rebuild their lives.

a photo of Jasmine sitting down smiling at the camera, in the Clean Break green room. The Big Give logo is in the top right corner.

Meet Jasmine

We sat down with Jasmine, a new Member of Clean Break who has been accessing our theatre programme and support services online, to hear how she found Clean Break and what it means to her.

Donate today and double your donation

I was put in touch with Clean Break through the probation service to take me out of a bad environment.

I found Clean Break in lockdown, so I started on Zoom by joining groups of drama, singing, poetry. Whatever they had, I said ‘I’ll give it a go’. Since joining Clean Break, I’m enjoying meeting new people. All people with different needs who have been through different things. I enjoy hearing from others in the group and maybe you don’t know them, but you get used to seeing them and being with them on Zoom.

I’m also enjoying the opportunity to learn new skills. I’m learning things which before, I might have found a struggle. With this, I feel my confidence getting better, I feel more comfortable speaking.

I’m honest with the Clean Break team and I say I have learning difficulties and that I might struggle, but they are always there to support you. I want to thank them for helping me to come into the group. Clean Break gives you an opportunity to join in, it’s helped me to get away from trouble and given me the support I need to get my confidence back.


Please stand with Clean Break to help us reach and support more women like Jasmine on their journey from surviving to thriving. Every £1 donated through the Big Give Christmas Challenge from 30 November to 7 December will be doubled. That means one donation, twice the impact.

Donate now

Photo of Ellen smiling at the camera

Meet Ellen

We spoke with Ellen, who has been a Member for three years, to hear what impact Clean Break has had on her and why she thinks you should support Clean Break’s Big Give Christmas Challenge.

Donate today and your donation will be doubled

Clean Break has provided a safe space for me. Not only has it helped me to develop my skills as a performer and as a writer, but I have also received support with my housing situation, alongside a lot of emotional support from the Members Team.

Clean Break is...

A doorway to prosperity

- Ellen, 2021

What did Clean Break mean to you during the pandemic?

It was a lifeline. As a women-only space, it has been invaluable. There are not many women only spaces, and that has made a really big difference on how I would be in workshops and sessions. For example, in theatre I would be much shyer around men than I am around women.

Tell us about the support you receive at Clean Break

It comes in a variety of ways. I’m offered the opportunity to participate in a range of different courses with tutors who have amazing skills to work with this demographic of women. These tutors offer 1 to 1’s outside of the session to help develop the work I create. I am also supported through art therapy sessions and being given mobile internet so I can access the programme remotely.

What is different about you since joining Clean Break?

I have more confidence in myself as a performer and a writer. I’m a poet, but a lot of the writing I have done whilst at Clean Break is script writing, which I used to find challenging. But since receiving positive feedback on my work in this area, this has helped me to develop, and it has given me confidence.

After a workshop or masterclass, or during it even, I feel inspired, energised and come to life. It wakes something up within me.

How does it feel to be part of the Clean Break community?

I feel proud to be part of this organisation because it does a lot to really help women change their lives.

Why do you think someone should support Clean Break in the Big Give Christmas Challenge?

Clean Break is a unique and innovative organisation, it supports women who would otherwise have been put on the scrap heap. Women that go to prison, the majority of which, go for short sentences and they lose everything during that time. When they come out of prison, they then have to totally rebuild their lives.

Clean Break offers an amazing opportunity for women to do just that through the creative arts. Women can start with their creativity here and some go on to university and become professional actors, writers, playwrights. There is no other organisation doing this work, it’s women-only and it’s so important to support women to develop and grow.

The support given through the Big Give will make a massive difference to many people’s lives. It will help support an incredible organisation with staff who are very well-experienced and well-trained to do what they do in supporting the women here. We have the best theatre and writing, and other creative practitioners come and lead courses and workshops. Clean Break is not able to do this without funding, so please give whatever you can.


Please stand with Clean Break to help us reach and support more women like Ellen on their journey from surviving to thriving. Every £1 donated through the Big Give Christmas Challenge from 30 November to 7 December will be doubled. That means one donation, twice the impact.

Donate now

Photo of Tina smiling at the camera

The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2021

From 12pm on Tuesday 30 November until 12pm on Tuesday 7 December all donations will be doubled!

Donate now

We are delighted to be taking part in the 2021 Big Give Christmas Challenge! The Big Give is the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign. The proposition is simple, every donation that is made to Clean Break during the week of the campaign (30 November - 7 December) will be matched. That means one donation, twice the impact.

We need support to protect the future of our Members Programme of theatre activities & support services for women caught up in the criminal justice system or at risk of entering it. With our trauma-informed practice, we seek to transform lives by empowering women to reach their potential & thrive.

Hear from the women at the heart of Clean Break, our Members, about why this campaign is so important:


 Donate now

Thank you for your support!

two head and shoulders photos, of Nola Sterling and Alex Rowse

Clean Break Announces Two New Trustees

Alex Rowse and Nola Sterling join Clean Break's Board of Trustees.

We are excited to announce two new appointments to our board of trustees. Alex Rowse, a creative producer and Nola Sterling, a social commentator and advocate against racial inequalities within the criminal justice system. Both women bring with them valuable expertise and experience, and will be brilliant additions to our already exceptional board of trustees.

Alex is a creative producer specialising in immersive and multi-disciplinary experiences for young audiences, communities and public audiences. She is currently Senior Producer for Collective Act, a new company formed to deliver a large-scale public engagement project for Festival UK 2022. She worked with Punchdrunk and Punchdrunk Enrichment for over six years as Producer and then Senior Producer, overseeing the development and delivery of projects for young audiences and leading key research & development into immersive technologies. Prior to this she was General Manager and Learning Producer with Coney.

"It is an honour to become a Trustee of Clean Break, who I admire for its radical origins, brilliant team, and commitment to creativity as an essential right for its Members. I am pleased to bring my expertise as a producer to the company, during a time of change and opportunity in our sector." - Alex Rowse

Nola is currently completing a Sociology and Politics BA at Goldsmiths University. Her research focuses on social justice, critical race theory, global governance and its impact on trade inequalities in the global south. She produces and presents a podcast as a social commentator, highlighting the issues affecting the African Diaspora to give a voice to topics often negated by mainstream media. Nola has over 10 years of management experience in the voluntary sector, she is also a staunch advocate against racial inequalities within the criminal justice system and seeks policy reforms in rehabilitation, specifically surrounding women who have been imprisoned.

"Clean Break is a safe haven for women to express themselves on their personal journeys without being judged, whilst being treated with great dignity. I love how Clean Break uses theatre in a holistic way that is dynamic and transformative.

It is a wonderful privilege to be a trustee at Clean Break, ensuring women can continually benefit from these opportunities. My biggest motivation is for Clean Break to continue to grow and develop in a way that reflects the nuances women face in an evolving society." - Nola Sterling

We're sending a very warm welcome to Alex and Nola!

Courtney Love at the art auction, wearing an orange dress

Courtney Love Art Auction

Courtney Love names Clean Break as a beneficiary of an exclusive art auction

 To mark the 30th anniversary of the release of Hole’s debut punk-rock album ‘Pretty on the Inside’, Courtney Love partnered with Parliament Tattoo in London to curate a charity exhibition of 30 pieces of original art, inspired by the influential record.

Click here to view the exhibition online

As a friend and supporter of Clean Break, Courtney selected us to be a beneficiary of this exclusive art auction, which was held on 2-3 October and is now available online, along with fellow women’s charity, Treasures Foundation.

The exhibition showcased 30 original pieces of art from Cherry Lazar, Bella Kidman-Cruise, Emma Black and a host of other talented artists who all found inspiration in Hole’s iconic album.

artwork on a white wall at the exhibition, the colours are mainly pink and red

The weekend of celebrations included live acoustic performances and DJ sets, while some guests showed their love for the band by getting Hole inspired tattoos from resident Parliament Tattoo artists.

There is still time to bid on these unique, original pieces of art, as the auction continues online until Monday 25 October. You can take a virtual tour around the event space through a 3D render of the exhibition.

Take a virtual tour of the exhibition

3 photos from the exhibition, one of a customised pink denim jacket, one of a woman getting a tattoo, and one of a white gallery wall with various artworks on it including a tapestry

Courtney Love recently attended Through This Mist, a Clean Break production performed in the intimate setting of our courtyard in Summer 2021, and thought the production was ‘marvellous’.

''Clean Break gives [women] theatre and music, gives them words. Gives them wings. Voices. Gives you: culture.'' - Courtney Love

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 Courtney Love (right) with Eddy Queens (left), Actor and Clean Break Member at a performance of Through This Mist

We are so excited to be recognised in this way and to be involved in celebrating such an influential album. This charity art auction comes at the perfect time for Clean Break, as we are celebrating feminist rebellion and immersing ourselves in punk with our bold new play, Typical Girls by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm and featuring music by The Slits.

Hole’s music, like The Slits, embodies the ferocious and unapologetic attitude of punk which continues to inspire artists today. At Clean Break, we can’t stop listening to the iconic tracks that shape this genre, so we created a playlist. Listen along with us here.

Photo credits: Derek Bremner


I am a theatre

Clean Break Archive Exhibition

Clean Break celebrates four decades of creating ground-breaking theatre on women’s experience of the criminal justice system with its retrospective exhibition ‘I am a theatre’: 40 years of Clean Break Theatre Company.

Jacqueline Holborough and Jennifer Hicks, Co-Founders of Clean Break: “We were dreaming big in 1979, but in our wildest dreams and furthest travels we could not have envisaged the brilliant organisation that Clean Break has become thanks to the talent, love and sheer determination of so many magnificent women.”

The live exhibition takes place at Swiss Cottage Gallery from 24 June - 31 July 2021, with Covid-secure measures in line with the latest government guidelines. It features:

  • previously unseen archival material, tracing the origins of the company from two women meeting in HMP Durham’s High Security Wing in 1977, to creating plays in prison and setting up Clean Break after release in 1979 as a 'women prisoners theatre';
  • original scripts, photography and artwork from 40 years of ground-breaking plays;
  • hand-written letters and correspondence from the founders;
  • original tv and documentary film featuring and produced by Clean Break from the 1980s to today;
  • footage from the 40th anniversary video interviews with 42 women from across its 40-year history;
  • an installation by artist Miriam Nabarro inspired by the 2019 production Sweatbox – set inside a decommissioned prison van – reimagined for the gallery space;
  • a digital events programme.

Alison Frater, Chair of Clean Break: "Since the beginning, Clean Break's advocacy through theatre and Member support has highlighted the policy perversity of imprisoning women - influencing a consensus by successive governments to reduce the rate of incarceration. The announcement of 500 new prison places for women, taking money from much needed community services and the failure to introduce measures to reduce violence against women and girls (yet removing the right to protest) in the draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, demonstrates that its work is still very much needed."

The exhibition has been curated by Claire Stone, Heritage Project Manager at Clean Break, and is co-designed by Miriam Nabarro and Liz Whitbread. Miriam Nabarro is a visual artist and scenographer with 25 years’ experience in socially engaged and participatory settings, both locally and internationally. Liz Whitbread is a Member of Clean Break who joined in 2012 and graduated in 2019 from Wimbledon UAL in Theatre Design. Their previous collaboration on a mobile exhibition inspired by the archive toured the UK alongside 2019’s Sweatbox, set inside a prison van, and has been re-imagined as an installation for this exhibition.

This exhibition is made possible by support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts and Humanities Research Council. This funding was received to celebrate Clean Break's 40th anniversary year, to document our heritage by: establishing a publicly accessible archive of our work at the Bishopsgate Institute; conducting oral history interviews; creating a digital timeline and exhibitions to share its story.

Click here to read the full press release.

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